Dozens of faith organizations back Respect for Marriage Act as Senate vote stalls – The Hill
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Dozens of faith organizations back Respect for Marriage Act as Senate vote stalls

“The freedom to marry who one loves is a matter of human dignity,” religious leaders wrote Friday in a letter to the Senate.
Getty Images, Monashee Frantz

Story at a glance

  • Dozens of religious organizations on Friday in a letter to senators called for the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriage.

  • Forty faith organizations signed onto the letter, asserting that the right to marry the person of one’s choosing is “a matter of human dignity.”

  • The legislation was passed by the House in July, but won’t come up for a vote in the Senate until after the midterm elections in November.

Dozens of religious organizations are throwing their support behind federal legislation to safeguard the right to same-sex and interracial marriage, calling on Senate lawmakers to back the Respect for Marriage Act in a new letter to Congress.

“Across religious traditions, we honor the common tenet that every person has inherent dignity and worth,” 40 prominent faith-based organizations including the Interfaith Alliance and Catholics for Choice wrote Friday in the letter. “And wherever we call home, we share the desire to care for our families with love and commitment.”

“Within our communities, we approach matters of marriage, family, and identity differently,” the groups wrote. “This bill recognizes this diversity of belief while ensuring that same-sex and interracial couples are treated with equal respect within the public sphere.”

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House lawmakers in July passed the Respect for Marriage Act — federal legislation that would require all states to legally recognize same-sex and interracial unions and officially repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — with 47 Republicans joining all Democrats in supporting the measure.

On Thursday, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of the lead negotiators on the measure in the Senate, announced that action on the bill would be postponed until after the midterm elections in November. The move is expected to increase support among Senate Republicans who are seeking stronger religious liberty protections.

“We are confident that when our legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, we will have the bipartisan support to pass this bill,” a bipartisan group of negotiators including Baldwin and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Thursday in a joint statement.

Religious leaders on Friday said the right to marry was “a matter of human dignity” and urged the Senate to pass the legislation out of their “shared religious obligations to care for our neighbors and to pursue justice.”

“We feel it’s really important that senators and everyone on the Hill understand that this is a bill that has religious support,” Rev. Paul Raushenbush, the president and chief executive of the Interfaith Alliance, an organization championing religious freedom and diversity, told Changing America on Friday.

A March Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that majorities of most major religious groups support same-sex marriage, including 83 percent of Jewish Americans, more than 70 percent of Catholics and Protestants and more than half of Muslims.

A poll published earlier this week by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ+ rights group, found that more than two-thirds of likely voters in congressional battleground states support legislation protecting the national right to same-sex marriage, including 55 percent of Christians.

Raushenbush, a gay man and a Baptist clergy person for more than 25 years, said measures like the Respect for Marriage Act would not undermine religious objections to same-sex marriage, as some critics have suggested. What it would do, he said, is protect the ability of religious leaders who affirm those unions to have them be protected under the law.

“When I’m speaking up about this, it’s because I’m protecting my family,” he said.

“I’m also protecting my religious liberty as a religious leader who has married hundreds of people – some of whom are same sex couples – who I feel an obligation to because I performed the wedding and gave it sanctity in the eyes of religion and in the state,” he said. “And I don’t abandon the couples that I marry.”